Be A Late Bloomer – A Heartfelt Conversation with Amo Amo

Los Angeles is somewhat of a free-for-all. With a population of around four million people and 88 sub-cities, there is truly something for everyone. This encompasses the richness and diversity present within the music scene, with bands all over the world seeking to make it in the big city. With a flurry of genres spread across the county ranging from pop-punk to hyper-pop-noise and everything in between, Amo Amo have made a name for themselves within their respective psychedelic-dream-pop genre.
Releasing their debut album Amo Amo in 2019, the band has gone on to tour the U.S. and share the stage alongside big name acts. I was fortunate enough to chat with Love Femme and Omar Velasco the lead singer and guitarist from Amo Amo before their set at SLO Brew Rock.

Brian: Hi, I’m Brian Mendez. I’m here with wav zine. First of all, let me thank each and every one of you for supporting us all along the way. It’s been a gnarly first year, the pandemic, COVID, you know the whole nine yards and whatnot. But we’re here live for the first time ever with Amo Amo! Omar and Love, first of all, thank you guys for agreeing to do this, this is awesome. I miss people.

Love: Oh yeah, forreal.

B: In any case, ‘Amo Amo’ seems like such a cool name. It’s not something casual like ‘Brandon’s Band’. You’re not going to check out ‘Brandon’s Band’, but if you see ‘Amo Amo,’ you’re like wait… ‘love love’? So can you talk to me about that?

Love: The name of the band? Well, the name used to be ‘The Mother Tongues’. Then it was ‘Omar’s Band’, and then I infiltrated about three or four months before the first record was made. When we were making the record in Foxen Canyon in Santa Barbara we realized we needed to have a new band name because there was a new lineup — with me being the new guy. We wrote down all these different band names on a sheet of paper in the kitchen while we were making our first record ever and ‘Amo Amo’ was one of the ones on there, so we decided on Amo Amo.

Omar: It was also at the top of the alphabet and that’s important.

L: Yeah, that’s right!

B: That’s very smart.

L: We should’ve had double A’s, A-a-m-o. Next time we have to change our name to that.

B: So, you were mentioning that during the process of writing the album you had to change the name from Omar’s Band.

O: Basically, we had to play some shows as that group. Love joined our group, we made this record, and realized it was sort of the birth of a whole new thing — it was deserving of a fresh new name.

B: Fresh name for a fresh album. How would you say the overall songwriting process was? I read you got some help from Jim James and I’m curious how the story built out.

L: Our writing process is different every record. A lot of the songs are predominantly me and Omar on the first record. On the EP Canta it’s me and Shane and then there’s one with Omar, Justin, and Alex, and one with just Omar. This new record I wrote, during Covid I wrote a new song every single day and then I would take a break. I do 120 days then I take a little break. So, I had written 250 songs by the time we got into a studio. The reason I wanted to join the band is they were my favorite band in LA and I used to just go and dance. They’re amazing musicians and they just vibe out to their stuff. For this particular record that’s the newer one I just looked at all the songs I had written, like the titles and just kinda sang it on top of what they were doing and then that’s how this one was born. So hopefully that’ll be out next year sometime, we take our time with it but yeah it’s always a different process. Who knows what the next one’s going to be.

O: Yeah that’s definitely the basis of our band, we try not to get too attached to the formulas. They can be helpful but it seems like every time we get together to do something, it’s just a new process that keeps it fresh.

B: Gotta keep it fresh. You said while you were fan-girling out to a band in LA, you followed them and went “Hey can I play with you guys.”

L: Yeah the bassist actually snuck me in. He snuck me to the first writing retreat.

O: I have to paint the picture a little bit. It’s so cool. We had these couple of days at a studio with our buddy Jim just to kind of test the waters, we didn’t really have a game plan necessarily, we wanted to just get in and see what happened. It was the four of us and then, like I was saying, the bass player Shane, unbeknownst to all of us, invited Love.

*Love laughs*

O: But Love showed up. Just with, with this… like… Lion?

L: It was this backpack with a white tiger head — and a baby snake.

O: It was wrapped around her neck and we were all kind of like..

O & L: What the hell?

O: So, we her asked: ‘You wanna hop on this track?’

B: If you have a white python on you, you kinda have to give them a chance, I would think.

L: Yeah!

O: Immediately it was musical, at the very basis of everything is this musical camaraderie that has been there right from the start. Kind of has a world of its own.

L: It’s been four years. Since June 6th. Yeah, four years.

(left to right) Love Femme, Omar Velasco, and Shane Mckillop performing at SLO Brew Rock. Photo by Jo Anna Edmison.

B: So you were explaining sort of why you were doing this band, how you came about. Would you say that’s the overall message that you’re trying to give with your music or this camaraderie? Would you say that’s the case?

L: Yeah, I would say that when we first were doing the record we did a little bit of writing retreats. That was like three or four months. After that initial meeting with them in the studio, we did a writing retreat. And we are all session musicians — we all play in other people’s bands, like I’ll sing in other people’s bands or play guitar, doing backup. And we’ve just noticed that sometimes a scene can be really dark, or it can be really weird, or it’s just about being cool. Like, I walk around with an alpaca stuffed animal. You know? We just wanted to have a place where we could have fun because when you’re a professional musician, you’re constantly learning other people’s music; you’re around other people’s friends. You’re just kind of there but it’s a blessing, it’s amazing, it’s fun. We’ve worked with amazing people, but we just wanted this music to be all of the beautiful wishes we have for the world, for ourselves. We want to put this sentiment in our music and in our group. The focus is like this dream, this wish to make beautiful music that’s fun that people like to dance to. 

B: I love music that I can dance to.

L: It’s very important to us.

O: That’s essential. You’re going to a show, y’know, boogie —  it’s fun!

B: So you mentioned you had a python and a wolf. Can you elaborate on this wardrobe choice, because even your jacket right now, it’s pretty gnarly. Who would you say is your fashion inspiration?

L: Thank you! My first job was in fashion. When I was really young I was teaching acting at a modeling agency, and then I moved to New York. I just really like sustainable fashion. All my clothing for probably 12 years has been secondhand, handmade, or like, House of Levi’s will give me free pants and T-shirts.

B: What’s your opinion on, not so much now, but the 2010s, even before Lady Gaga — when she would wear all those gnarly outfits. I think she even dressed as a fish one time. What do you think about people who go the adventurous route within fashion?

L: It’s powerful, it’s empowering, it’s a celebration of community, but also such a celebration of personal independence and personal freedom to express yourself in an oppressive world. Especially in the queer community. I mean, the queer community is super wacky, and it’s really fun. It’s like, you made it another day in this crazy world as a queer person. I think it’s like a celebration of that, it’s a celebration of itself. And ever since I’ve joined this band, I’m always trying to put these dudes in makeup, make them wear a weird shade, and they’re super down. You know, I just think it’s art and it’s great. I think Lady Gaga is great. It is liberating.

B: *Looks at Omar who is wearing a plain zip down sweater* Your outfits are gnarly too. 

L: I mean, check this out. *Points at zipper* There’s a zipper, it’s fucking clutch.

O: Every once in a while I will kind of push my own envelope a little bit, I’ve been known to do so. I figure for this, keep it a little cozy.

L: *Points at Brian’s jacket* We didn’t want to outshine your situation here. 

B: Please, how can I compare — you have a necklace.

L: My mom gave me this thing. I love my mom. I always try to wear stuff my mom gave me.

Photo by Jo Anna Edmison

B: So I take it you two are more adventurous than other bands. I mean, you guys have sick clothes. So what would you say has been the most, for lack of a better word, adventurous story you have? Whether it be recording or at a gig. Tell me something crazy. 

L: Adventurous story? 

O: *turns to Love* I don’t know, you have a better memory than I and probably the most adventurous one.

L: Oh, there’s a good one. So, at our very first festival, I wasn’t even in the band yet, but there was this festival called Come What May and it was a couple days in June. I played with this band Lola that I was in and there were just great artists. It was really fun. But at one point, Grateful Shred was playing and it was in the hills in the mountains, and it was late and everyone was like, on shit. Grateful Shred is like playing and it’s really vibey and our two friends are chasing each other in the dark when they trip over a water pipe. Water starts gushing from it. I mean hundreds of gallons of water start gushing toward the hill. It’s rolling steadily toward the stage. And it’s all electric, you know, everyone’s plugged in. Our friend Leslie yells at us: ‘You gotta get everyone off the stage!’ So Leslie’s like, ‘I’m gonna go save the day,’ and she runs onstage. She yells out to everyone: ‘Get off the stage! There’s a pipe burst!’ But, it’s dark so you can only see kind of like this slithery stuff coming down the hill. She goes to one of the guys she tells him again: ‘You gotta get off the stage! A pipe burst!’ And he looks all scared and he goes, ‘Vipers?!’ *laughs*

O: He thought they were vipers.

L: Long story short people thought these killer snakes were cascading toward the stage. That’s probably one of my favorite tour stories. We just played in Joshua Tree and wrote another record in Joshua Tree at our friend’s house. We’re always experiencing kind of weird places together. 

O: One of the highlights, I would say, is something we want to do a lot more of: playing outdoors. Those settings aren’t always mentioned. 

L: Oh right, like Portland Zoo. We got to feed a giraffe before.

O: Yeah. Outside Lands was so amazing. Keyboard player, poor guy. He got so sick.

L: We found him passed out in some wood chips.

Photo by Jo Anna Edmison

B: Oh wow. But yeah, Outside Lands. I’ve seen your touring lineups, and you’ve played with some pretty sick people. We’re in a college town right now and there’s a bunch of college bands with a dream of making it big someday. So how would you say your overall perspective changed, how did that jump feel going from playing in bars and whatnot, to all of a sudden playing Outside Lands, amongst people like Tyler, the Creator?

O: Well, it’s interesting because a lot of the time these things happen gradually but might appear from the outside like overnight. These things take time and, at least for us, it’s been a pretty natural progression. In that sense, when you are in certain places, it’s exhilarating because it just feels like the next natural step to be taking as a band. The relationships we’ve made along the way are beautiful. It’s very relationship based. The things that we’ve been able to do are because of the music and the relationships that grow out of playing with people. It’s wonderful. 

B: So, lastly, because we do have to wrap this up, what is your message to the kids? 

L: To the kids? 

O: *turns to Love* You wanna go?

L: You’re the dad, I don’t know, I don’t have kids.

O: I mean, there’s so much to say to the kids. Though, I get the sense that the kids know a lot already. There is something within that that we can tap into. Encourage them to listen to their heart. That’s more than just a platitude, that’s like a real thing that has helped me a lot and guided us. In a world that can be really confusing, full of so many choices, take time to just slow down for a second. Go inward, ask yourself, ask your gut. I don’t think that can fail you. 

B: I agree one hundred percent.

My one piece of advice: be a late bloomer. It doesn’t matter. You’re not going to run of out time, so just do something you love.

Love Femme

L: I would say my one piece advice would be to be a late bloomer. It doesn’t matter. You’re not going to run out of time, so just do something you love. If it takes 10, 20, 30, 40 years, just trust that you know. Follow your heart, keep going for it and compassionate kinds of communication will get you wherever you need to be.

B: That’s beautiful. 

O: Yeah y’all are great.

L: A whole posse here. *points at camera team*

O: Oh yeah, not too much social media, tone it down.

B: Thank you guys, thank you so much! Looking forward to your magical set, it’s gonna be fun. We’re .wav zine, thanks for tuning in!

You can find Amo Amo’s music on Spotify. Listen to their new EP “CANTA”, out now!

Brian Mendez is WAV’s Interview Coordinator, he conducted the interview. Jo Anna Edmison is WAV’s Media Director, she took the photos.